Wednesday, 28 June 2017

British Airways a National Disgrace!


It was with much trepidation that I booked a British Airways flight for my next trip to the USA, but the connection times were good so I did.

Well! I haven’t even got on the flight yet and I am totally disillusioned. I have flow with BA 3 times out of Manchester and on each occasion the aircraft has had technical problems and this has caused me to miss my connecting flight; resulting in the disruption of car hire, hotel and other holiday plans.  My daughter has flown with them twice, on the first occasion on a flight to JoBurg her seat and in-flight entertainment failed to work rather than moving her the crew offed loyalty points! No Thanks!! Then on a flight home from Rio, her flight was cancelled, that was it, just cancelled no accommodation no alternative flight offered, they just left her in Rio. As her sister was with EK she got a staff ticket and came home a long way round via Dubai!!!

 On this occasion I have decided to drive down to LHR to avoid any technical problems at MAN and have now seen that there will be a cabin crew strike!

I telephoned BA customer service today to ask about the laptop to the USA situation, after pressing many buttons, and waiting many minutes I was informed all the ‘lines are busy’ and cut off.

So this is the conclusion, I will never book a flight with BA again, even if this means I have a longer flight or an inconvenient layover or poor a connection time. This airline is a national disgrace and the British flag should be removed from the livery.

If I get on the flight, I will let you know how it is!!!!!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Cycle Saigon to Hanoi with EXPLORE! The train from Hue to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hanoi and THE END!

The overnight train from Hue to Hanoi.

I love the information regarding trains you can get from the Man in Seat 61web page and had read about the train on this site and was exited to be using the train rather than flying to Hanoi.
In anticipation for the journey we had a good lunch at a small CafĂ©, then Hoan had advised us to get food from a small shop next to the hotel. I did go looking for a French Bakery that was mentioned in the Rough Guide but was unable to find it. So got a small Picnic of egg roll and crisps from Hoans relative. I had brought a box of wine with me from the UK so we were all set for the journey.
We got to the station at 15.00 and had quite a long wait till the train arrived, Hoan had divided the 12 of us up into party's of 4 as each cabin slept 4 people.
On the train there were many different carriages, some had seats, some slept 6 and some like ours slept 4.
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue Station

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue Station


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue Station
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue Station

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue Station

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Train

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Train
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Train


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue Station
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Train
It was quite a squeeze with 2 fixed bunks on each side, a small table with a lamp on it and not a lot of room for the luggage. My hard shell case was not suitable for the small space. But with a bit of force we got the cases under the lower bunks and settled in for the journey. It was very hot despite the AC.
Exploring the train we found a Bar, all the train crew were using the bar I really hopped that did not include the driver! A lot of the bar takings were split between the till and the crew serving and Beer ran out very quickly.
The Bar on the Hue to Hanoi Train



Each carriage had a small basin and toilet at each end, the toilets were rather pungent!
We did have a Cockroach problem with the Roaches climbing the walls in large numbers and when the carried next to us sprayed some insect repellent all the Roaches that were in there room relocated into ours.  
Despite the heat, feeling a couple of Roaches crawling on me and the train motion I did sleep and was awakened by the deafening sound of a song being sung over the loud speakers. It seemed we had arrived in Hanoi.
We were transported to the Hotel Anise where Hoan told us to pack an overnight bag as our bags would stay at this hotel. We had breakfast and a shower then got on the bus for the long 4 1/2 hour drive to Halong Bay.


Halong Bay and the Victory Star.

It is a very long way from Hanoi to Halong Bay and there is not a lot to see on the journey as the area seems quite industrial and looked a lot poorer than the South. However Halong Bay is worth the journey.
The itinerary just said ' Halong Bay Junk', so I was very surprised to see that our overnight accommodation was on the Victory Star Junk and it was a small cruise ship.
This really was the highlight of the tour, the crew were friendly and attentive, the food was outstanding and there was loads of it. We cruised into and around the bay, visited a floating village, some caves and the beach.
Even though the weather was poor it was still a wonderful experience.


Halong Bay and the Victory Star



Halong Bay and the Victory Star



Halong Bay and the Victory Star


Halong Bay and the Victory Star
 




 



Halong Bay and the Victory Star


Halong Bay and the Victory Star

Hanoi

The next day we did the long drive back to Hanoi and the Anise Hotel. This was a different hotel than was on the itinerary, that listed The La Belle Vie Hotel.
The Anise was OK, Hoan took us on  quick tour of Hanoi, seeing the Temple of Literature and
Ho Chi Minh's Tomb. That evening you could go to the Water Puppet Show but we had a roof top dinner instead.
Then the next day our flight was late in the evening so we had time to walk all through the old Quarter of Hanoi and generally explore the city.

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi


The End

This was the end of our EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi adventure and it had been amazing. We experienced things we would never had if it had been a coach trip, yes! you do spend a lot of time on the bus but this is detailed in the Trip Notes.
The group were all really interesting people and supported each other when it was needed. It was a great tour and I am so please I did it.

Cycle Saigon to Hanoi with EXPLORE! Hoi An and Hue

We had two nights at the Van Loi hotel in Hoi An.

Hoi An was a big surprise. 

I did not know it was a wonderfully preserved world heritage site, with fascinating architecture and a law that all local businesses have to dangle lanterns from all facades, so the town is full of lantens. We had a walking tour of Hoi An, went to the famous Tailors and had clothes made, ate good food and generally had a fascinating day in what felt like a film set.

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hoi An



The next day we cycled from the hotel in Hoi An; I like the days when we cycled out of the towns, it was exhilarating to be in the mad traffic and it was faster than on the bus.
It took about 20 minutes to reach the road junction at the beach. This is where many upmarket hotels have built resorts, Hotels like the Four Seasons are in this area and every spare bit of land was being developed. We cycled towards Danang - or China Beach where the US forces had R&R in the war- and there was building work taking place the whole way.


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Danang
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Danang


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Danang
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Danang


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Danang


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Danang

In Danang we passed Marble factories carving marble into many shapes.The old US Military Base, still not used and the famous China Beach, the beach was fantastic with large surf it would have been good to stop but we did not have time for a swim.
Went over the Tran Thi Ly Bridge and stopped at the end of the beach to get on the Bus to go up, and down, the Hai Van Pass. This had been the best cycle of the trip so far and we did the 45KM in record time.
At the top of the pass there is a collection of Pillboxes and other defensive structures left over from the French and Americans.


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hai Van Pass
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hai Van Pass

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hai Van Pass

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hai Van Pass




Following lunch at a beach resort on the other side of the pass we cycle again through paddy fields and villages, again we had a good pace and made good time so we were not late when we checked into the hotel Thanh Lich in Hue.
This was our last full day of cycling and had been the best yet, I was exhilarated that we had completed the 80KM in a good time. I went and had a full massage and facial for £15.00 then still have the energy to go out in the evening and have a good meal with the group to celebrate a Birthday.

Our last day on the bikes was spent in the city of Hue.

Early morning we cycled through small villages and paddy fields ending up at the Tomb of Nguyen. At this point we gave our bikes back to the hard working crew who had supported us for the last 10 days. It was also where my camera battery died and I realised I had not charged another one!


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hai Van Pass
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi-



EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hai Van Pass
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue


EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue

We then visited the Old Imperial City before a quick dash back to the hotel to pick up our bags and get to the station. Tonight we were getting the train to Hanoi. 
EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi- Hue Station